A Lame Deer man involved in a check-cashing scheme prosecutors have connected to an Atlanta gang pleaded guilty Monday to five felony counts of forgery.
Elijah Blue Bearing, 33, appeared before District Judge G. Todd Baugh and pleaded guilty to two counts of forgery, common scheme and three counts of forgery for cashing or attempting to cash five checks at Billings banks in early January.
Bearing’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for July 1.
According to prosecutors, six men with ties to an Atlanta gang came to Billings and recruited transients as part of check-cashing sprees committed in October, November and January.
The men from Georgia would steal payroll checks from the mailboxes of local businesses and use the checks in combination with the transients’ personal information to forge checks, according to an affidavit. The Georgia men would then pay the transients to cash the checks at area banks.
The Yellowstone County Attorney’s Office has charged all six men from Georgia and a number of other men identified as transients in connection to the check-cashing sprees. The total value of the dozens of forged checks was about $117,500, according to court records.
An affidavit states U.S. Postal Service inspectors have informed investigators in Billings the suspected architects of the scheme have been under investigation around the country, including in Kansas City, St. Louis, Sioux Falls, S.D., and Eugene, Ore.